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Homeland Security official describes widespread 'fraudulent' families at border

Homeland Security official describes widespread 'fraudulent' families at border
© Greg Nash

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told Congress Tuesday that 15 percent of migrant families screened at the border were found to be misrepresenting minors as their own children in order to bolster their asylum claims.

Families with minors are released from detention to shelters more quickly because minors are not allowed to be held in custody for more than 20 days under a 1997 court settlement.

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McAleenan told Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinOvernight Health Care — Fauci: Lack of facts 'likely' cost lives in coronavirus fight | CDC changes COVID-19 vaccine guidance to allow rare mixing of Pfizer, Moderna shots | Senate chaos threatens to slow Biden's agenda Hillicon Valley: Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says | Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian hack on DOJ, courts | Airbnb offers Biden administration help with vaccine distribution Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts MORE (D-Ill.) that a DNA-testing pilot program found that 17 out of 109 people tested were found to be misrepresenting a minor they were detained with as a blood relation.

“Seventeen admitted or were tested out as fraudulent,” McAleenan testified. “This is a 15 percent return.”

McAleenan also said that special agents with forensic interview skills interviewed 1,568 family unites and found that 242 families “were fraudulent.”

“I don’t think we can ignore these numbers,” he said.

McAleenan clarified that the statistics don’t necessarily mean that 15 percent of all families trying to cross the border are misrepresenting unrelated minors as blood-related offspring.

He said the families tested were targeted referrals by border patrol agents who were suspicious about certain migrants borrowing or renting children to get into the United States more easily.

Durbin, an outspoken advocate for immigrant rights, acknowledged there was “no excuse” for misrepresenting children to fraudulently gain asylum.

“We should not ignore them. There is no excuse, none, for mispresenting a child as your own in an effort to defraud anyone in our country or any other place,” Durbin said. “But this notion that we can somehow dismiss the 85 percent of children because some are abusing that representation of parental responsibility troubles me greatly.”

Earlier in the hearing, McAleenan said border investigators found a 51-year-old migrant paid $80 to rent a 6-month-old child to get across the border.

“We’re very concerned about the incidents of fraud. We think it’s a huge part of this cycle, and it’s caused by the fact that they know if they come as a family they’ll get special treatment at the border,” he testified.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyOn The Money: Treasury announces efforts to help people get stimulus payments | Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury | Judge sets ground rules for release of Trump taxes Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury Finance Committee vote on Yellen nomination scheduled for Friday MORE (R-Iowa) then introduced into the record four media reports about children being smuggled or rented out to help migrants get across the border. He cited an Associated Press article about a Guatemalan woman who said she rented out or recycled children 13 times, receiving payments of $1,500 per child.